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Blockchain technology and decentralized governance: Is the state still necessary?



The core technology of Bitcoin, the blockchain, has recently emerged as a disruptive innovation with a wide range of applications, potentially able to redesign our interactions in business, politics and society at large. Although scholarly interest in this subject is growing, a comprehensive analysis of blockchain applications from a political perspective is severely lacking to date. This paper aims to fill this gap and it discusses the key points of blockchain-based decentralized governance, which challenges to varying degrees the traditional mechanisms of State authority, citizenship and democracy. In particular, the paper verifies to which extent blockchain and decentralized platforms can be considered as hyper-political tools, capable to manage social interactions on large scale and dismiss traditional central authorities. The analysis highlights risks related to a dominant position of private powers in distributed ecosystems, which may lead to a general disempowerment of citizens and to the emergence of a stateless global society. While technological utopians urge the demise of any centralized institution, this paper advocates the role of the State as a necessary central point of coordination in society, showing that decentralization through algorithm-based consensus is an organizational theory, not a stand-alone political theory.
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
Marcella Atzori *
* Center for Blockchain Technologies, University College of London, UK
How to cite this paper: Atzori, M.
(2017). Blockchain Technology and
Decentralized Governance: is the State
Still Necessary? Journal of Governance
and Regulation, 6(1), 45-62.
Copyright © 2017 The Author
This work is licensed under the Creative
Commons Attribution-NonCommercial
4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0)
ISSN Online: 2306-6784
ISSN Print: 2220-9352
Received: 28.12.2016
Accepted: 05.02.2017
JEL Classification: G18, G28, E5
DOI: 10.22495/jgr_v6_i1_p5
The core technology of Bitcoin, the blockchain, has recently
emerged as a disruptive innovation with a wide range of
applications, potentially able to redesign our interactions in
business, politics and society at large. Although scholarly interest in
this subject is growing, a comprehensive analysis of blockchain
applications from a political perspective is severely lacking to date.
This paper aims to fill this gap and it discusses the key points of
blockchain-based decentralized governance, which challenges to
varying degrees the traditional mechanisms of State authority,
citizenship and democracy. In particular, the paper verifies to which
extent blockchain and decentralized platforms can be considered as
hyper-political tools, capable to manage social interactions on large
scale and dismiss traditional central authorities. The analysis
highlights risks related to a dominant position of private powers in
distributed ecosystems, which may lead to a general
disempowerment of citizens and to the emergence of a stateless
global society. While technological utopians urge the demise of any
centralized institution, this paper advocates the role of the State as
a necessary central point of coordination in society, showing that
decentralization through algorithm-based consensus is an
organizational theory, not a stand-alone political theory.
Keywords: Bitcoin, Blockchain, Decentralized Autonomous
Organizations, Decentralization, Democracy, Ethereum, Encryption,
Governance, Politics, State, Peer-To-Peer Networks
“To push the antigovernment button is not to
teleport us to Eden.
When the interests of government are gone, other
interests take their place.
Do we know what those interests are?
And are we so certain they are anything better?”
Lawrence Lessig
1.1 The Blockchain Technology and the Era of
In a white paper published in November 2008,
Satoshi Nakamoto proposed Bitcoin as the first
electronic payment system based on a decentralized
peer-to-peer network, without the need for a trusted
third party. The core technology of this protocol, the
blockchain, is widely acknowledged as a major
breakthrough in fault-tolerant distributed
computing, after decades of research in this field. In
overly concise terms, we can define the blockchain
as a database that contains all the transactions ever
executed in a peer-to-peer network. It consists of a
permanent, distributed digital ledger, resistant to
tampering and carried out collectively by all the
nodes of the system. The formidable innovation
introduced by this technology is that the network is
open and participants do not need to know or trust
each other to interact: the electronic transactions
can be automatically verified and recorded by the
nodes of the network through cryptographic
algorithms, without human intervention, central
authority, point of control or third party (e.g.
governments, banks, financial institutions or other
organizations). Even if some nodes are unreliable,
dishonest or malicious, the network is able to
correctly verify the transactions and protect the
ledger from tampering through a mathematical
mechanism called proof-of-work, which makes
human intervention or controlling authority
The rationale for this protocol is the
decentralized trust or trust-by-computation and its
importance can hardly be overstated: indeed, it
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
represents “a shift from trusting people to trusting
math” (Antonopoulos, 2014), with applicability that
goes far beyond the creation of decentralized digital
As an irreversible and tamper-proof public
records repository for documents, contracts,
properties, and assets, the blockchain can be used to
embed information and instructions, with a wide
range of applications. These include, for instance:
smart contracts, namely automatized, self-executing
actions in the agreements between two or multiple
parties; multi-signature transactions, which require
the consent of multiple parties for their execution;
smart properties, namely digital ownership of
tangible and intangible assets embedded to the
blockchain, which can be tracked or exchanged on
the blockchain itself.
In these cases, the advantage of the blockchain
consists of removing the need of a trusted third
party (e.g. a notary) and enforcing the execution of
instructions by a cryptographic code, with
protection of participants against risks of fraud and
a significant reduction of management overheads.
Because of the remarkable advantages related to
automation, transparency, auditability and cost-
effectiveness, the blockchain may thus represent a
disruptive innovation for many varieties of contracts
and business activities.
Other important applications of the blockchain
include for example (Swan, 2015): the creation of
decentralized domain name system resistant to top-
level domains censorship (e.g. Namecoin);
decentralized voting systems for tamper-proof
ballots and election results (e.g. Bitcongress,; decentralized autonomous
(DAOs/DACs/DASs), namely self-sufficient agents
derived from artificial intelligence and capable to
execute tasks without human involvement, for which
the blockchain can provide additional functionality.
The fields of application of the blockchain
paradigm are potentially countless, since it allows
the disintermediation of any digital transaction at
global level. Accordingly, all kinds of business and
human activities are expected to be reconfigured,
with a pervasiveness similar to that of the Web
(Swan, 2015). For this very reason, the blockchain
has been described as fundamental for human
progress as the Magna Charta or the Rosetta Stone
(Swan, 2015), and it is often referred to as a “Black
Swan” – namely an accident of major impact in
history that cannot be anticipated, creates surprise
to the observer and can only be rationalized by
hindsight (Taleb, 2007).
1.2 The Emergence of Blockchain-Based
The blockchain technology potentially allows
individuals and communities to redesign their
interactions in politics, business and society at large,
with an unprecedented process of disintermediation
on large scale, based on automated and trustless
transactions. This process might rapidly change
even the tenets that underpin existing political
systems and governance models, calling into
question the traditional role of State and centralized
institutions. Indeed, many blockchain advocates
claim that the civil society could organize itself and
protect its own interests more effectively, by
replacing the traditional functions of State with
blockchain-based services and decentralized, open
source platforms (e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum). Driven by
the enthusiasm for the new possibilities offered by
information technology, along with a profound
dissatisfaction with the current political systems,
they hence encourage citizens to be part of the
blockchain revolution and self-create their own
systems of governance, in which centralization,
coercion and socio-political hierarchies are replaced
by mechanisms of distributed consensus.
Broadly speaking, the advocates of
decentralization tend to have in common the same
dissociative attitude towards centralized institutions
and the State in particular, questioning its capacity
to create added value (Paquet & Wilson 2015). The
dominant discourse mostly emerged through the
media, and generally dominated by IT specialists
and financial operators, sees governments “as
somewhat of an encumbrance too slow, too
corrupt, too lacking in innovation, and benefiting
too few” (Paquet & Wilson 2015, p. 21). It is
important to note, however, that there exists a
certain variety of positions towards to the role of the
State in the blockchain governance, and the dividing
lines between disintermediation of government
services, free market and even anarchism are often
Many enthusiasts simply promote the
blockchain as a more efficient, decentralized and
consensus-driven public repository, which can have
a number of applications in order to make citizens
less dependent on governments, yet within a society
that is ultimately founded upon the State authority.
Techno-libertarians and crypto-anarchists hold
instead a more extremist position. They are
generally inclined to consider the State as an
illegitimate, unnecessary and irremediably obsolete
depository of power, and they openly encourage the
use of the blockchain as a liberating force against
the very concept of authority. According to this
view, we are at a stage in history when individuals
can gradually overcome any centralized political
institution through algorithm-based distributed
consensus and create the conditions for an idealistic
society of equals, characterized by flat, rather than
hierarchical, structures.
Although the view about the role of the State
may differ, a growing category of political
technopreneurs and evangelists of decentralization
have already developed projects for the creation of
cryptonations namely stateless, do-it-yourself
governance services entirely based on the blockchain
(e.g. Bitnation). The aim of this paper is to critically
examine such proposals, which challenge to varying
degrees the traditional mechanisms of State
authority, citizenship and democracy.
We would point out that applications of
blockchain technology are still in a defining stage
and they represent an extremely fast-moving field,
with little established theory, few recognized experts
and no easy answers. Scholar debate on this subject
is still in its infancy and mostly dominated by
technical, financial and legal issues related to
Bitcoin. As a consequence, a comprehensive analysis
of the impact of blockchain technology on political
governance and democracy at large is severely
lacking to date. We hope that our paper will increase
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
the understanding of problems at stake and
motivate further study and transdisciplinary
research in this field, which certainly requires
careful consideration.
This paper is organized as follows.
After presenting the key principles and
assumptions related to the blockchain-based
governance (Section II), also in an historical
perspective (Section III), we will assess risks and
benefits of a possible migration of government
services to blockchain-based platforms (Section IV).
We will then verify the performance of blockchain
and decentralization platforms as hyper-political
tools, capable to manage social interactions on large
scale and dismiss any central political authority
(Section V): the analysis will particularly focus on
risks related to a dominant position of private
powers in distributed ecosystems and on the
possible emergence of a stateless global society. The
paper will also investigate whether and to which
extent the blockchain governance can mitigate
coercion, centralization and hierarchic structures in
society (Section VI). Although the blockchain
governance is technically able to disrupt the idea of
State, conclusions (Section VII) will show that it
cannot be considered a standalone political theory.
We wish to stress that the purpose of this
paper is not to advocate the idea of State a priori, as
an immovable institution. We are aware that the
complexity of an increasing interconnected society
requires overcoming some limits of the nation-state,
and we are hence fully in agreement on the necessity
to promote citizens-based participatory politics to
the greatest extent: in a true democracy indeed,
citizens should never be just passive recipients of
State paternalism (Paquet & Wilson, 2015). And yet,
even if the transformative power of the blockchain
on society cannot be overrated, an objective analysis
of its political applications should not be prone
towards any technological determinism. On the
contrary, proposals for new models of governance
should be investigated with great care and critically
assessed, especially against the risk to promote anti-
political instruments or to conceive politics
according to mere market logic.
To date, a comprehensive discussion of possible
blockchain-based political models does not yet exist
at academic level. Since a coherent and consistent
body of thought on this subject is missing, for the
purpose of our research we have collected
information from a number of sources as accurately
as possible, though probably in a non-exhaustive
manner. Swan (2015) represents a valuable point of
reference for our analysis, since the author offers a
detailed and complete overview of possible
applications of the blockchain technology, including
government services. Some of the assumptions,
proposals and visions presented below have arisen
through the Internet within a growing global
network of new technologies supporters,
practitioners and entrepreneurs; other ideas instead
seem to be recurrent themes in conferences, blogs,
forums and specialist websites, and for all we know
they are not exclusively attributable to a specific
That said, the main principles of blockchain-
based governance could be summarized as follows:
(a) Centralized organizations and the problem
of scale.
Throughout history, centralized political
organizations like State, bureaucracy and
representative democracy have been a solution to a
scaling problem. They have been mostly developed
for the purpose of reaching consensus and
coordination between heterogeneous or distant
groups of people, facilitating their mutual
(b) State as a Single Point of Failure (SPOF).
Although they were built in response to specific
historical necessities, organizations with top-down
centralized coordination and hierarchical structures
tend to be inherently inefficient: they are based on
coercion and they may lack flexibility and capacity
to evolve, providing inadequate responsiveness to
challenges and to the growing societal demands. In
particular, governments are proved to be
systematically exposed to significant risks, such as
lack of transparency, corruption, regulatory capture,
misuse of power and even regression into
authoritarianism, due to the concentration of power
in the hands of few. Which leads to the classic
matter: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will watch
the watchmen?).
A centralized authority in any hierarchical
organization can be defined in computer terms as a
Single Point of Failure (SPOF): if its functioning is not
optimal, the whole system and its participants will
be negatively affected by it. Decentralization aims to
reduce or prevent such concentration of power and
it is a fundamental condition for citizens to achieve
political efficacy, equality, transparency, and
(c) Distributed architecture and trust-by-
computation: “Code is law”
Centralized vertical authority has become the
main organizational model in society, simply
because there has not been a better alternative so
far. For the first time in history, citizens can now
reach consensus and coordination at global level
through cryptographically verified peer-to-peer
procedures, without the intermediation of a third
party. The blockchain technology ushers in a new
era of decentralization on large-scale, in which
human factor is minimized and trust shifts from the
human agents of a central organization to an open
source code. In such distributed architecture, “code
is law” (Lessig, 1999; Farmer, 2003): the protocol is
open-source and it can be review by anyone; the
network is not owned nor controlled by any single
entity; data are simultaneously kept by all nodes,
thus ensuring proper redundancy. Neutrality of the
code, distributed consensus and auditability of
transactions can significantly reduce or overcome
frictions and failures inherent in decision-making
process of centralized organizations (e.g. lack of
transparency, corruption, coercion, etc.). Many new
decentralized governance models and services can
therefore be implemented and experienced through
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
the blockchain, without the oversight of
governments (Swan, 2015).
(d) Power of individuals and politics by instant,
atomic interactions.
While the State bases its action on coercion, the
blockchain can provide governance services in a
more efficient and decentralized way, without
having to relying on force. This allows a more
horizontal and distributed diffusion of authority, in
which the source of legitimacy are the individuals
themselves. Using the blockchain as a permanent,
encryption-secured public record repository,
humans’ agents as representatives can be replaced
by smart contracts and Decentralized Autonomous
Corporations (Swan, 2015). The collective
relationship between individuals and the State can
be fully or partially automated by instant, atomic
interactions (Buterin, 2014a). Under economic and
political point of view, direct interactions and
consensus-based models are more efficient than
pooled-models, since they can provide citizens with
a more representative and equitable way of
interacting with reality (Swan, 2015).
(e) A do-it-yourself, Starbucks-style public
The blockchain can be used as a permanent
public records repository to store all government
legal documents such as contracts, identification
cards, passports, lands deeds, etc. in a cheaper,
more efficient and decentralized way. Any user-
citizen can create his own blockchain nation with an
entirely voluntary, do-it-yourself-public
administration (Swan, 2015). Users can opt-in and
out at will in accordance with their needs, so
government services can become more granular and
“individualized as a Starbucks coffee orders” (Swan
2015, p. 46).
“Through simply downloading an app on your
smartphone, you can choose your code of law, your
preferred arbitration method, write a smart contract,
and get married, title your land, notarize a will,
incorporate a company, get health insurance, and
much more, in just a few minutes for a couple of
dollars. It is backed by an ID and reputation system,
dispute resolution, and an app library where people
can upload and share or sell their own do-it-yourself
governance apps” (, 2015).
(f) Borderless, globalized government services.
Blockchain-based services are able to overcome
the geographical limits of nation states and uplift
their jurisdiction to a global cloud (Swan, 2015).
Considering the growing mobility of individuals
between borders, one overall provider of
government services is preferable to the current
system, which is based on multiple nation states and
is therefore inefficient (Swan, 2015).
(g) Systems of direct democracy.
Democracy can become more effective through
the direct participation of citizens in the decision-
making process. The blockchain technology can
implement new models of participation, such as
Liquid Democracy (; Swan,
2015) and random-sample elections.
(h) Futarchy: Voting for Values, While Betting On
Futarchy was proposed by economist Robin
Hanson (2003) as an engineering approach to public
policies. The system essentially consists on
prediction market speculating and betting through
cryptocurrencies and tokens. Citizens first vote on
specific political outcomes or targets, then on
proposals for achieving them. Finally, they will gain
or lose tokens, depending of the acceptance or
rejection of proposals. Discussed as a new possible
governance model based on Ethereum platform
(Buterin, 2014b; Swan, 2015), futarchy represents “a
quintessential example of the potential
transformative power of blockchain technology”
(Swan 2015, p. 53).
About the role of State in the blockchain-based
governance, positions are different and may include:
(i) A decentralized society still based upon the
State authority.
To decentralize services through the blockchain
does not mean to dismiss the State, but to foster
better governance. The blockchain is not meant to be
a tool for promoting lawlessness or anarchy: the
objective is rather to prevent the excessive
concentration of power in the hands of the few
(Andreas Antonopoulos, interviewed by Sparkes,
2014) and to make legal frameworks more granular
and tailored to the needs of citizens (Swan, 2015).
(j) A new social contract, characterized by
Decentralized Autonomous Societies and the final
demise of the State.
With the diffusion of blockchain applications, it
will be finally possible for citizens to eliminate the
need for centralized institutions and design a new
social contract based on consensus rather than
coercion, for a more transparent, autonomous and
innovative global society. The new social contract
would include systems for decentralized
communication and collaboration, as well as
decentralized arbitration systems in order to resolve
conflicts through smart contracts, with rules
consented by the participants and compatible with
common law or natural law (,
2014;, 2015).
In the end, blockchain-based voluntary services
will be make the State completely irrelevant and it
will simply wither away because of lack of consent
(, 2015). Society will be hence
transformed into a blockchain-based, self-
sustainable system, run by algorithms and free-
market rules.
“I envisage a situation where governments
aren’t necessary. That the free market will be able to
provide all the goods and services to secure your
life, liberty and property without having to rely on
coercion. That’s where this all ultimately leads. The
end result is that governments will have less power
than free markets. Essentially, the free market will
be able to provide justice more effectively and more
efficiently than the government can. If you think
about it, what is the reason for government? It’s a
way of reaching global consensus over the theory of
right and wrong, global consensus over who’s guilty
and who’s innocent, over who owns what. They’re
going to be losing legitimacy as more open,
transparent systems are able to provide that
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
function without having to rely on force” (Daniel
Larimer, interviewed by Sparkes, 2014).
(k) Franchulates.
With the full application of free market rules,
the blockchain technology may allow the emergence
of franchulates, as in Neal Stephenson's novel Snow
Crash (Swan, 2015). Franchulates are a combination
of “franchise” and “consulate”. In Stephenson's
book, they consist of private corporations which
have replaced the State in all its functions,
competing to each other to provide goods and
services. In this self-regulating society, the
Constitution is disrupted and citizens have no
rights; the State is reduced to a hollow entity with no
real power; private companies behave as government
agencies, and citizenship is reduced to business
membership and brand loyalty (Lipschutz, 2010). In
this anarchic-capitalist scenario, “the citizen-
costumer is king” (Lipschutz 2010, p. 92).
The blockchain technology has the potential to
transform our societies in something very similar to
Stevenson's vision. For its advocates, the core idea is
that central institutions should not maintain the
exclusive monopoly on government services: they
should rather act more as businesses, following
market rules and offering value propositions and
services to the costumer-citizens, as demanded by
the different segments of constituents (Swan, 2015).
Further elements useful for discussion:
(l) Authority floating freely, cognitive dissonance
and societal maturity.
Decentralization through the blockchain
technology represents a “natural progression of
humanity” (Andreas Antonopoulos interviewed by
Sparkes, 2014) and a “natural efficiency process”
(Swan 2015, p. 31). Nonetheless, it will take time for
individuals to fully understand and accept the
principles of decentralization, and the process can
create cognitive dissonance for those accustomed to
trust-based services (Andreas Antonopoulos, 2014).
The blockchain changes the way political
governance, authority, independence and
participation can be conceptualized and executed, in
so forcing individuals to reach a new level of
maturity and understanding (Swan, 2015). Citizens
have always relied on an external, centralized
authority for government services, so it might be
initially difficult to accept a new model of
governance only based on personal responsibility,
peer-to-peer interaction and “authority floating
freely” (Swan 2015, p. 54). Social maturity, however,
will possibly develop also in this context, as already
did in other industries such as information (Swan,
3.1 Marxist Determinism and Anarcho-Capitalism
The first consideration is that most of principles and
assertions presented above are all but new in the
history of modern political thought. The anti-
government rhetoric which often accompanies the
blockchain advocates, as well as the idea to run
society only through individual contracts is, for
instance, at the very heart of Proudhon's social
contract as explained in the General Idea of the
Revolution in the Nineteenth Century (1851). But
there are also other similarities interesting to note.
The strong individualism and the critic to
centralized, hierarchical organizations; the State
depicted as an outmoded instrument of oppression
and the idea of coercion as a source of all evil; the
possibility for individuals to finally govern
themselves, disrupting the current political
paradigms; and the gradual, spontaneous demise of
the state, once a vast majority of people will have
reached a certain level of consciousness all these
elements are rooted in the anarchic mainstream and
in the determinism of the Marxist doctrine.
According to Marxism, indeed, the State will not be
suddenly abolished, but it will simply “wither away”,
once certain conditions are met in this case, when
the production processes will be reorganized by the
workers according to principles of freedom and
equality. At which point, the Marxism claims that
“all members of society, or at least a vast majority,
[will] have learned to administer the state
themselves, having reached a sufficient level of
maturity and political consciousness, and they “will
put the whole state machinery where it will then
belonginto the museum of antiquities, next to the
spinning wheel and the bronze ax” (Engels, 1884).
With a gradual and spontaneous process, citizens
will finally be accustomed to live in a society
“without force, without coercion, without
subordination, without the special apparatus of
coercion which is called the state” (Lenin 1917, p.
This seems to be exactly the ultimate purpose
of crypto-anarchists as well as an implicit desire of
many advocates of decentralization. In spite of these
interesting similarities, however, there is at least one
crucial difference here that should be noted. While
for Marxism the demise of the State is the natural
consequence of capitalism disruption, for the most
fervent blockchain advocates it is rather the
opposite: it represents the final victory of free
markets and self-interested individuals over public
institutions, in a process of economic liberalization
which can be more properly defined as anarcho-
capitalism (Section II, point j, k).
3.2 Decentralization and New Models of
With reference to more recent political dynamics,
the drive towards decentralization can be seen as a
part of a wider anti-government phenomenon, which
has progressively emerged in Western democracies
during the last decades, modifying the relationship
between citizens and central authority (Paquet &
Wilson, 2015). According to this new trend, different
interest groups in society are less inclined than
previously to compete against each other for the
control of the State: rather, they cease to recognize
its political monopoly, emphasizing its weak
performance and failures, and exploring new
possibilities to organizing activities and services in a
more efficient way (Paquet & Wilson, 2015).
Over the last forty years, various models of
deliberative democracy and decentralized public
governance have been developed to this aim, and in
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
many aspects the blockchain-based governance
represents the latest development of this trend.
Expressing criticism against the limits of the
traditional forms of political participation, the
concept of deliberative democracy has been
discussed since the 1980's as an ideal of political
autonomy and self-governance. Based on the core
principle that representative democracy should be
enhanced by forms of direct civic participation, this
approach has put particular emphasis on values
such as public reasoning, deliberation among equal
citizens, transparency, and accountability of the
decision- making process (Bessette, 1980; Bohman &
Rehg, 1997).
At the same time, the view of the State
monopoly as a Single Point of Failure (SPOF) and the
search for less state-centric policy instruments have
also paved the way to an increased interaction
among public, private and nongovernmental
subjects for the fulfillment of public interest
activities. The notion of New Public Administration
and thereafter New Public Governance has been
proposed to define such new framework of
decentralized governing practices, emerged in the
Western countries since the 1970s. In this context,
advocates of a market-oriented approach to public
policies, such as Osborne and Gaebler (1992), have
claimed that governments should focus on
“steering” rather than “rowing”, setting priorities
and goals instead of directly deliver services, in
order to better meet citizens' needs. On one side,
these practices have addressed the growing need to
experiment an entrepreneurial model of leadership,
finding innovative solutions to the mismanagement
of State and bureaucracy across the traditional
organizational and institutional boundaries; on the
other side, however, they have resulted in a
controversial and socially costly process of public
expenditure review, deregulation and
corporatization of public bodies, in the attempt to
improve efficiency and reduce costs of services
through neo-liberal policies.
Scholars have described as governance without
government (Peters & Pierre, 1998; Rhodes, 1997)
this emerging pattern of management, characterized
by a major shift of power from public to private
sector, and by an increasingly dominant role of the
market in public affairs. In this context, researchers
has also given particular emphasis to the power of
networks to downplay the role of State and
dominate public policy, due to ability of networks to
self-organize, develop resilience and evade
government control (de Bruijn & ten Heuvelhof,
1997; Kooiman, 1993; Marsh & Rhodes, 1992; Peters
& Pierre, 1998).
In the last decade, the effects of globalization
have created new pressures on institutions for
further decentralization and more participative
political practices (Shabbir, Cheema & Rondinelli,
2007). Control and social coordination which have
always been essential roles of the State have
become far more complex and fractured than in the
past, now involving the sharing of authority with a
growing number of non-state actors, operative
agencies, stakeholders, and networks at local and
global level. Concepts and practices of public
governance have evolved accordingly and literature
has conceptualized a rich variety of new
organizational models, with the discussion of multi-
stakeholder (Freeman, 1984; Almeida, Getschko &
Afonso, 2015); decentralized (Shabbir, Cheema &
Rondinelli, 2007); distributed (Abbott, 2000; Paquet,
2000); and collaborative governance (Ansell & Gash,
2008; Donahue, 2004). Although meanings and
definitions of this model may change depending on
context, they share some basic features, such as a
trend towards deconcentration of hierarchical
structures; a more responsive, transparent and
accountable approach to decision-making; and the
inclusion of multiple interest bearers in a platform
of dialogue, in order to find consensus-based
solutions to common problems.
3.3 The Role of Cyberspace, Peer-To-Peer
Networks and Encryption
The restless development of information technology,
the increasing digitization, and the ubiquitous
nature of connectivity have represented a further
catalyst for governance decentralization. Eliminating
the barrier of communication costs and using a
distributed architecture with multidirectional
connections among all nodes, the Internet and
cyberspace have allowed the emergence of the
“networked public sphere” (Benkler 2006, p. 212) as
a great facilitator of freedom of expression. Like
never before in history, citizens have had the
possibility among many other things to intensify
interactions between interest groups and social
movements at local and transnational level; express
grievances and discontent through non-institutional
channels; engage in new collaborative processes; and
experiment alternative governance models, in a
climate of greater political awareness, but also
growing distrust of government actors.
All these factors have contributed to a further
erosion of the old concepts of Westphalian nation
state and territorial-based governance, with its
traditional functions related to sovereignty,
authority and national boundaries increasingly
called into question.
In this context, even the diffused enthusiasm
towards cryptography as a defensive political
instrument has certainly played a crucial role. The
idea to use strong encryption to protect citizens'
freedom and privacy from governments and big
corporations can be traced back to the cypherpunk
and crypto - anarchist culture of the late 1970s. The
core principles of these heterogeneous
countercultural movements can be found in the “The
Crypto Anarchist Manifesto” (May, 1988) and in the
“Cypherpunk's Manifesto” (Hughes, 1993), stating
that freedom of speech, individual privacy in
communication and anonymous transaction systems
are essential conditions for an open society, and
they should be used to foster social and political
change. Especially after September 11, these
principles have led to a growing use of anonymity-
protecting peer-to peer networks (e.g. Freenet, Free
Haven), capable to resist censorship and circumvent
the oppressive online mass surveillance systems put
in place by governments and businesses (Farmer,
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3.4. The Final Stage of Decentralization: the
Blockchain-Based Governance.
All the processes described so far have one major
common thread: they have explored new forms of
coordination and interaction between State and
society, with a significant shift of power from
central institutions to individuals and/or markets.
The blockchain-based governance can be considered
as the final stage of this process of decentralization
and disempowerment of institutions, insofar as:
- it proclaims the social benefits of a bottom-up
approach to politics, emphasizing consensual
forms of self-government and direct
participation of citizens to decision-making
process, in a similar way as deliberative
democracy (and other alternative models of
- it fails to see any added value in central
coordination and it promotes the primacy of
economics over politics, following a logic of
privatization of government services, as
prompted by the New Public Governance
(“governments need to become more like
business; “markets can do better than the
- it encourages the political use of strong
encryption to enhance citizens' freedom and
- it relies on peer-to-peer global networks and
online interest groups, which aim to
decentralize hierarchical structures, be
independent as far as possible from government
powers, and challenge their agenda.
The final result is the idea that public policies
and government services should be directly
managed by private networks of individuals, through
a decentralized model of governance based on
distributed trust and market rules.
In the next sections, we will discuss possible
practical outcomes of this model.
To which extent is it possible to decentralized public
administration and government services through the
blockchain technology? Can we dismiss State
archives, physical ledgers and human notaries, and
“put a nation on the blockchain”? (Swan 2015, p. 47).
Undoubtedly, the blockchain has remarkable
properties as a distributed ledger, such as efficiency,
cost-effectiveness, irreversibility, transparency,
auditability and censorship resistance. Yet, the
proposal to decentralize government services
through an open, unpermissioned blockchain entails
a whole set of unknowns, which may overweight the
benefits. Although the blockchain is frequently
described as a universal and permanent ledger, this
claim is somehow overstated, since it does not take
enough account of the way it is implemented and
the several performance risks at stake.
4.1 Security Problems and Technical Weakness of
Current Open Blockchains
The first problematic aspect is that current public;
unpermissioned blockchains as Bitcoin have a highly
speculative nature, with an inherent trade-off
between dimension of the network and
decentralization. Scalability leads in fact to a natural
process of centralization of the computing power in
the network, due to the decrease of the number of
miners able to perform the mathematical verification
required by the protocol, which has growing costs.
Bitcoin, for example, is currently run by increasingly
centralized mining farms, which turn out to be
engaged in secretive, colossal mining operations in
China (Franco, 2015) or traded on the stock-
exchange in Australia (Riley, 2015) with possible
risks of collusion or cartelization. Therefore, a
decentralized Starbuck-style governance (Section II,
point e) based on such a blockchain would
dangerously expose citizens' records and essential
rights to private interests and to unpredictable
market dynamics (e.g. uncertainty of mining
profitability, volatility of prices, discontinuity of
investments, speculative attacks, etc.).
Moreover, even if reliant on an apparently
robust peer-to-peer network, a public blockchain is
inherently volatile and it can be forked or dismissed
by the community at any time, because not attractive
or remunerative anymore. It is hence questionable
whether a fully decentralized blockchain like Bitcoin
can be defined as a universal ledger. Since there is
no guarantee that it will still be operative or even
exist in the future, persistence and preservation of
contracts and government services may become
susceptible to invalidity because of obsolescence,
boredom, or shift towards a new system (DuPont &
Maurer, 2015).
A further aspect of volatility is that data and
contracts recorded in the blockchain are entirely
reliant on connectivity. In case the network is shut
off, or the markets shift to a new, more appealing
technology, there might be no paper-based backup
archiving able to guarantee the existence of data or
the execution of contracts (DuPont & Maurer, 2015).
And “contracts, by contrast, are all about managing
uncertainty” (DuPont & Maurer, 2015).
There are several other technical issues that
should be carefully assessed, when considering
migrating government services to an open,
unpermissioned blockchain.
Despite the enthusiasm of its advocates, the
scientific community generally agrees in stating that
Bitcoin and its many clones are based on a still
immature and highly vulnerable technology. A full
analysis of Bitcoin technical weaknesses falls beyond
the scope of this paper, but we will offer a brief
summary of the most relevant researches on this
Concerns have been raised, for instance, about
the incentive mechanism of Bitcoin mining protocol:
a research made by Ittay and Gün Sirer (2014) has
demonstrated that a colluding, minority group of
“selfish miners”, consisting of 1/3 of all miners of
the network, may in fact be able to strategically
control the system and break its decentralized
nature. The research has therefore concluded that
services and data built on the top of the Bitcoin
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
blockchain, such as virtual notaries, are currently at
According to the theory of Programmed Self-
Destruction (Curtois, 2014), fatal engineering
mistakes in the Bitcoin architecture will eventually
result in a process of programmed decline and self-
destruction. Problems outlined in this research
- excessively fast erosion of profitability for
existing mining machines;
- enormous investments in hashing
infrastructure, still with poor general security of the
- insufficient network neutrality;
- lack of reliable data about the volume of
transactions and irrational expectations of investors.
In particular, the self-destruction of Bitcoin
network could be caused by a fatal combination of
four factors:
- inefficiency of the longest chain rule, which
leads to unnecessary instability and growing
risks of attacks to the network;
- deflationary monetary policies;
- poor network neutrality and moral hazard;
- rapid hash power shifting from one coin to
another, due to high competition.
Although “In Cryptography We Trust” is the
motto of many supporters around the world,
researches also show that Bitcoin blockchain
currently suffers from major vulnerabilities related
to the use of elliptic curve cryptography (ECC),
which include weak key generation, poor signature
randomness, insufficient entropy and software bugs
(Bos, Halderman, Heninger, Moore, Naehrig et al.,
In particular, Bitcoin elliptic curve
cryptography is not quantum-safe and the
emergence of quantum computers could disrupt it at
any time. The National Security Agency has recently
admitted the limits of ECC and the urgent necessity
of migrating to post-quantum cryptography (,
2015), as also recommended by the renowned
cryptographer Ralph C. Merkle ( In this
regard, Bitcoin core developers simply claim that
given an appropriate amount of advance warning
(such as one month); they may be able to take
emergency measures through a centralized authority
and keep the blockchain safe. Centralization would
be introduced as temporary measure only and then
retired after a few years (Buterin, 2013). The
proposal to fix technical problems through a central
authority or “benevolent dictator”, however, is
clearly anti-democratic, since it entails the direct
power of private entities over government services
and essential citizens' data, without any formal
legitimacy nor control. Needless to say, history is
full of “benevolent dictators” who bypassed
procedural legality and gave themselves full powers,
with the declared noble objective of serving the
community and restore order. But if history has
taught us anything, it is that the question of
legitimacy is crucial: it should hence be considered
with great care, especially by those libertarians who
genuinely believe in decentralization through the
blockchain and through Bitcoin in particular as a
new political model to enhance individual freedoms
and collective rights.
In overall, the benefits of open, unpermissioned
blockchains for government services seems to be
offset by several risks, related to:
- moral hazard, scalability problems, trend
towards centralization and likely dependency of
networks on private oligarchies, such as miner
corporations, which may rapidly conduct stock
exchange mergers and acquisitions, gaining
considerable power on global scale;
- domination of market logic over essential public
services and citizens' rights, which should be
rather protected by speculations of any kind;
- possible lack of service continuity and /or
preservation of data in the medium-long run
with no delineation of liability, due to market
dynamics and/or serious technical flaws;
- raising of a dominant techno-elite with growing
supervisory powers over strategic services at
global level, without the necessary formal
We should thus conclude that e-government
can hardly represent the best area of applicability
for fully decentralized blockchains, such as Bitcoin.
Government services require high performance and
high degree of reliability, accessibility and
predictability, being not tolerant of any service
interruption or failure: a flaw in the management or
in the implementation of the network would
compromise the security and the civil rights of
millions of citizens. Moreover, a formal and
transparent process of legitimization must be
strictly required when dealing with government
services, in order to avoid the indiscriminate
emergence of private powers over public affairs.
Centralized and democratically legitimated
public institutions are therefore crucial to ensure
accessibility for extremely sensitive data in the long
run and to preserve them from uncontrolled
centralization, market speculations, technical flaws,
and private supervisory powers. On the contrary, an
indiscriminate process of decentralization and
“gamification” (DuPont & Maurer, 2015) of public
administration through token-based incentives may
turn out to be an irresponsible choice, with
detrimental effects on citizens' fundamental rights.
4.2 Advantages Of Permissioned, Token-Less
Blockchains For Public Sector
If open, unpermissioned blockchains like Bitcoin
have their own inherent limits, permissioned
blockchains may represent instead a valid solution
for e-government. Applications may include, for
example, the management of IDs and driving
licenses; land, school, medical records; certificates of
birth, marriage, and death; tamper-proof and
auditable e-vote systems; tax collection, and more.
Permissioned blockchains are replicated,
shared ledgers (Gendal Brown, 2015), which can be
administrated by one or more organizations e.g. a
government agency in order to guarantee adequate
levels of network coordination, reliability and
security through human intervention, when
necessary. These ledgers present advantages over
both fully distributed blockchains and traditional
Firstly, they can be separated from speculative
verification mechanisms, such as cryptocurrencies
or token rewards: they can therefore be used for
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
services that are of general interests only, with data
properly protected in the long term and no
interference from cryptocurrency markets.
Secondly, they are distributed and
synchronized, but their network is restricted to few
trusted nodes and members, identifiable by
controlled access permissions. Since nodes are few,
with no need for neither mining nor computationally
intensive proof- of-work, validations and propagation
of data are much faster than public blockchains
(Buterin, 2015). Networks are also substantially free
of scalability issues and they are able to offer better
performance if compared to general purpose
blockchains, since they are engineered for very
specific functionalities (Kuhlman, 2015).
Permissioned blockchain-based architectures
can be designed for specific purposes through
different consensus and verification systems, and
different levels of control, security, visibility and
permissioning (Peters & Panayi, 2015).
Traditional databases are overall inefficient,
since they generally use a master-slave, centralized
structure for data replication. The master database
is the only original and authoritative source: any
change on data performed on the master is
propagated to the slave databases, which are kept
synchronized. This kind of architecture, however,
may raise problems related to reliability, volume of
traffic, and latency, since the master database
performs all the writing operations. A more
advanced system, called multi-master replication,
allows any slave database to perform changes,
sharing updates to each other to remain in sync
(, 2015). This entails, however,
complex strategies to ensure data consistency, in
order to prevent and solve possible conflicts
between information.
Compared to master-slave databases, the
distributed architecture of permissioned blockchains
may bring significant advantages to public
administration in terms of efficiency, data security,
data integrity, availability, reduction of errors and
infrastructural costs. In particular, data integrity
which consists of data accuracy, consistency,
provenance and preservation through
transformation (Peters & Panayi, 2015) is
particularly important for government services,
along with security and availability, and it can be
significantly enhanced by the blockchain technology.
Although they are still at an early stage of
development, the advantages of permissioned
blockchains should be definitely discussed more,
with a view to a possible application in the public
Despite their potential benefits, however,
permissioned blockchains are often the target of a
great deal of criticisms, mostly because they are
centralized, closed systems and they cannot provide
censorship resistance. They can thus be resisted by
those techno-libertarians who view them as a threat
to the process of decentralization, or as “a desperate
act of dinosaurish middlemen trying to stay
relevant” (Buterin, 2015).
We have already seen, however, that there are
limits to what public blockchains are suited for, and
such limits should be clearly recognized, in order to
make reasoned choices.
In regard with security, although the dominant
narrative tends to consider centralized institutions
as incapable to rapidly react to sudden changes
(Section II, point b), we can argue that the opposite is
the case: vertical centralization is definitely better
suited to deal with rapid technical challenges,
compared to horizontally-scaled structures.
Scalability, for example, is a problematic factor. In a
distributed architecture with thousands or millions
of nodes on global scale, to modify a protocol may
result in a complex and time-consuming procedure:
it requires wide consensus of core developers,
miners and nodes; consensus can be conditioned by
reasons of economic expediency; and in the end, the
ecosystem may fail to respond to unexpected
challenges in a timely fashion.
For this very reason, we may conclude that
through human use and intervention, complex
systems of software have better chance to be
effectively managed (DuPont & Maurer, 2015). When
citizens rights are concerned, however, it is worth
recalling that human agents cannot be hi-tech elites
who proclaim themselves benevolent dictators: they
must rather be public officers legitimated through
formal, accountable and transparent procedures.
4.3 Government Services and the Technological
Imperative of Decentralization
The assumption that decentralization of services
through the blockchain technology represents an
inescapable future or “a natural progression of
humanity” (Section II, point l) is common between its
advocates. Such approach, however, is sometimes
too deterministic and it does not take enough into
account possible risks of implementation in a
specific context of use.
Firstly, it is questionable that there is such a
thing as a natural progression of humanity: rather,
humanity sets priorities and makes choices among
many possible options and scenarios, often in a
conflicting way. It is also questionable the idea that
individuals and societies can be forced by
technology to grow into a new level of maturity
(Section II, point l), since the success of a new
technology depends much more on social factors
and interactions than on the superiority of the
technology itself, and in this regard every society
has different social practice, with unpredictable
dynamics (Boersma, Meijer & Wagenaar, 2009).
The idea that technological developments are
inevitable, with fatal, unstoppable and irreversible
consequences on society, is usually defined as
“technological imperative” by scholars, and
interestingly, it tends to grow as technological
systems scale up and increase in complexity,
becoming more interconnected and interdependent
(Chandler, 1995).
When dealing with essential government
services, however, determinism should never be the
driving force behind decentralization. Indeed, the
point is not to challenge the centralized model of
governance at any cost, but to consider inherent
trade-offs of decentralization within a specific
context of use. While decentralization can be
functional to good governance, it should not be
regarded as an end in itself (Shabbir, Cheema &
Rondinelli 2007), nor uncritically embraced in the
name of anti-government feelings, technological
imperative or wish for innovation at any cost.
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In this regard, it is also worth recalling that
innovation is “the specific tool of entrepreneurs”
(Drucker, 1985): as such, it generally belongs to a
market-oriented vision of the world, which sets as
priorities profit, competition and commercial
interests, but it does not necessarily represent the
most desirable characteristic for government
services, which are primarily connected to
preservation of social, economic and political rights,
and must rather prove security, reliability and long-
term durability, in the face of societal evolution.
Decentralization through open, token-based
platforms mostly means gamification of public
functions, with the transformation of government
services and citizens rights into a new profitable
private business. Given that today the new models of
governance often proposed by exuberant political
thinkers are increasingly transforming individual
freedoms into dangerous sources of insecurity
(Marden, 2003), we should recall the main reason
why central coordination of public institutions was
originally created and why we should keep it: to
protect common good and collective rights in the
long term from transitory individual interests and
from any reckless logic of profit. And in this regard,
it cannot be ignored that permissioned, token-less
blockchains hold a considerable advantage over
public blockchains.
To which extent can we consider blockchains and
decentralization platforms as hyper-political tools,
capable to manage political interactions on large
scale and dismiss any central authority, such as the
State? Can we finally overcome traditional political
institutions and make a new social contract only
based on decentralized platforms, distributed
consensus, and “authority floating freely” (Section II,
point j, l)?
We will discuss reasons why such scenario is
not only problematic, but also undesirable.
5.1 Technocratic Reasoning and the Triumph of
Homo Economicus
The first objection is that the role of governments,
politics and representative democracy cannot be
reduced to a web of instant atomic interactions,
entirely executable by automated processes (If X,
Then Y). This engineering approach to social
dynamics promoted by technology vendors and
decentralized platforms developers (Section II,
points d, h) as a way to overcome traditional
political institutions is a clear example of
technocratic reasoning and determinism which
scholars claim to be deeply embedded in all Western
modern societies and particularly in the American
culture (Smith & Marx, 1994).
Technologists tend to overemphasize the
efficiency of encryption and codes as political tools,
capable to verifying and aggregating individual
decisions on large scale without intermediaries.
Admittedly, the blockchain technology can greatly
improve structure, management and decision
making process of specific realities, making them
less dependable on top-down coordination. Human
and social communities, however, are highly
complex systems, with unpredictable and non-linear
connections between parts, and no obvious
endpoints (Allenby, 2012). The capacity to
understand the world in all its complexity is context-
sensitive, and it must entail a strong ethic
dimension, as well as a direct human participation.
Governance is therefore much more than
aggregating votes, keeping databases in sync,
calculating metrics or enforcing transactions
through algorithms. Politics cannot be simplistically
reduced to binary codes, since it is an art that stems
from the ethic sphere of human beings and it
belongs to them exclusively, as creatures “endowed
with reason and conscience” (Art.1 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights). We must hence guard
against the risk of a gross oversimplification of
complexity and the indiscriminate application of
automatic procedures. Code developers, for
example, tend to reduce any human organization to
the mere combination of two elements: a set of
property, and a set of individuals who follow a
protocol (Buterin, 2014a), which can therefore be
automatized. This reductionist approach, however,
is unmindful of the cultural, social, institutional, and
ethical complexity of human interactions, and it may
easily lead to a technological dystopia, if protocols
prevails in the way we interact.
We must not forget that empathy and
conscience, for example, are irreplaceable
components of any social and political interaction,
and information efficiency and automation are not
necessarily the ultimate purpose of human
Far from any real political dimension, the
regression of the concept of democracy to
governance-by-computation or Decentralized
Autonomous Organizations namely large scale
automated procedures devoid of life as exclusive
way of interacting would represent the ultimate
triumph of Homo Economicus: an agent renowned
for being “autonomous, instrumentally rational,
psychologically self-sufficient, 'under socialized' and
motivated into action by the utilitarian principle of
maximizing pleasure(Bourque, Harrisson & Szll
2009, p. 85). In addition, with the bad reputation of
“anthropological monster” (Bourdier, 1997).
5.2 The Pre-Political Dimension of a
Blockchain-Based Society and the Meaning of the
In order to better understand the possible dynamics
of a stateless and algorithm-based society, it can be
useful retread the logical process of creation of the
State according to the natural law theorists, as
outlined by Bobbio (1995).
In a hypothetical, fully decentralized society
run through smart contracts, Decentralized
Autonomous Organizations and market rules,
individuals live in a kind of pre-sovereignty
condition: on a case-by-case basis, they self-organize
and cluster around common needs and interests,
which they try to administrate or secure through
consensus- based automatized procedures, accepted
by the parties involved. For example, they may use
decentralization platforms to manage distribution of
resources, run reputation-based systems or organize
any kind of services through crowd-funding.
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So why such a society is all but perfect? Simply
because it is incomplete: it is still primitive or pre-
political. Indeed, in this phase individuals are not
citizens yet: in spite of the sophisticated
technologies they may use to create contractual
arrangements, they are still living in a state of
nature, in which the law of might or the laws of the
market prevails on common good. In this new-
tribal scenario, frictions and conflicts will eventually
rise between different networks and interest-bearers
at local and global level, needing negotiation and
compromise to reach a stable peace. If well-
intentioned to avoid mutual abuse of power, groups
may create a non-aggression pact to refrain from
violence and seek peaceful solutions in case of
conflict. This phase in which individuals reach
consensus and set standards for a common,
peaceful living is usually called pactum societatis by
contractarian doctrines.
This non-aggression pact can be gained
through consensus and represents a formal move
from the state of nature towards the establishing of
civil society. And nonetheless, as Bobbio recalled,
reaching consensus is not sufficient and it does not
solve conflicts: indeed, the observation of this pact is
not ensured in any way and it is not protected from
external, opposing forces. As a result, society is still
quite unstable, dispersed and agonistic.
In the end, the natural need of security and the
necessity to avoid fragmentation of social efforts
lead individuals to establish a permanent point of
control, a neutral Third Party to which delegate the
responsibility of maintaining order, coordinate
activities and resolve future conflicts in a legitimate
way, through a pactum subjectionis (or submission to
organized coercion). That moment is crucial and
marks the emergence of the idea of State, which can
be deemed as a product of logical thought as also
Kant claimed rather than an historical event. Most
importantly, the symbolic phase in which the general
will is created marks the move of human
communities to a real political dimension, in which a
higher level of coordination between conflicting
interests is recognized as fundamental, in order to
protect consensus once reached.
It is this juridical and ethic process that
transforms individuals into citizens.
Many techno-libertarians claim that central
coordination and State are the products of a
patriarchal, hierarchical and gerontocratic mindset
that we ought to overcome. The principles behind
decentralization often echo the values of neo-liberal
politics and individualism, with an emphasis on
personal responsibility, self-promotion, self-
government, and control over one's destiny (Marden,
2003), as opposed to top- down policies,
paternalistic central institutions, and “faceless
government bureaucrats”. In this regard, however, it
is worth recalling that central political institutions
have emerged through a complex, historical process
of emancipation from private powers and churches,
setting legitimate procedures not only to overcome
problems of scale or to coordinate distant groups
(Section II, point a), but most of all to protect
general consensus, execution of the laws and the
individual rights themselves from the inevitable
chaos of antagonistic interests.
It is therefore clear that the State, as a
guarantor of fundamental rights, is not an unwieldy
third party that can be by-passed through a
technological disintermediation process: the State is
us, as a result of the first and biggest crowd-funded
project ever existed in history, and it should not be
defined in opposition to civil society. Far from being
over, this collective project is rooted in our
Constitutions and it is connected to the concepts of
public interest, citizens' rights, coordination and
redistribution of resources, which cannot be entirely
devolved to market laws or atomized algorithm-
based interactions.
We certainly agree that human society must be
creative, developing a diversified ecology through
bottom-up governance models to better approach its
problems. Nonetheless, we should also be aware of
the pitfalls of a technicist attitude, recognizing that
automation and decentralization have inherent
limits and new forms of social and political fragility
may stem from them.
In this regard, it is not clear, for example, how
a fully distributed, blockchain-based society would
regulate conflicts, mediate between opposite
interests, or rectify social iniquities, other than
through market adjustments, complex webs of
smart contracts or other sophisticated, automated
incentive mechanisms. Not only markets are proven
to be incapable of creating social justice and
redistribution in spite of what techno-
entrepreneurs may claim (Section II, point j) but it
is rather the subjugation of politics to “turbo-
capitalism” and its financial dictates that bears most
of the responsibility for the problems currently
affecting our democracies from long term
unemployment, poverty, regulatory capture and
erosion of social capital, to imperialist wars,
diffused insecurity and fear (Luttwak, 1999; Ziegler,
In fact, it is with the increasing atomization of
social life, the extreme individualism and the
restless rationalization of economic structures that
corporate power reinforces and reproduces itself, to
the detriment of individual and collective rights
(Boggs, 2000; Marden, 2003).
5.3 Stateless Global Society and “Amoral
Antipolitics”: The Disempowerment of
The major problem of an hypothetical global society
only run through organizational patterns based on
individualism namely Decentralized Autonomous
Organizations, free market rules, and “authority
floating freely” (Section II, point l) is that it would
essentially lack legitimate mechanisms to regulate
the convergence of the particular into the general,
which is the traditional role of centralized political
institutions. Breaking the collective identity building,
citizens may not see themselves anymore as a part
of a whole, because the general will is replaced by a
myriad of immediate acts of the individual will. This
may entail a serious risk of regression of human
communities into a pre-political condition,
characterized by “Hobbesian deregulated landscapes
and a retreating State” (Marden 2003, p. 90).
Individuals would not be citizens anymore, but mere
service consumers and players, “independent
interest-bearers ... with no agreed-upon norms to
regulate their interactions as free and equal beings”
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(Urbinati 2006, p. 65); and society would be
dominated by adversarial private interests and
“franchulates” as described by Stephenson in his
novel (Section II, point k).Such a scenario falls within
the concept of amoral antipolitics (Schedler 1997;
Marden 2005): the lines between public and private
action are blurred and politics is reduced to a
private, strategic power game of homo economicus,
based solely on rational choice principles and aimed
to maximizing the utility of participants.
Whether it is moved by misguided libertarian
intentions, naive utopians or investors seeking for
profit, the idea to create a stateless global society
through an indiscriminate proliferation of private
decentralized platforms seems to be far from ideal:
such a system would not go indeed beyond the
primitive phase of pactum societatis, characterized
by conflicts between many different consensus-
based groups and oligarchies, in the general absence
of mechanisms to enforce citizens' rights and
freedom. Contrary to the claims of some blockchain
advocates, the final outcome would be the general
disempowerment of individuals, the “deification of
the market and the triumph of antipolitics” (Marden,
2003, p. 185). These conclusions, however, hardly
come as a surprise: in discussing technological
determinism and utopianism as peculiar historical
traits of American society, Segal (1985) suggests that
technological utopias generally lack effective
solutions in terms of social cohesion and real social
progress. And the deterministic applications of
blockchain technology to politics appear to bear this
Techno-libertarians usually place particular
emphasis on blockchain capability to reach
consensus between participants on large scale,
considering vertical political authority detrimental
to individual powers. They often advocate the
wishful scenario of a flat, non- hierarchical and
coercion-less society run through algorithm-based
consensus, in which individuals can cooperate freely.
This vision, however, seems to come in addition to
the number of many others ICTs myths emerged in
the last decades including for instance “the myth
of a new and a better government”, “the myth of the
rational information planning”, and “the myth of the
intelligent and empowered consumer” (Bekkers &
Homburg, 2009).
We will briefly discuss reasons why the
blockchain governance as political model does not
solve neither the problem of coercion, nor the
problem of hierarchic structures in society.
6.1 The Issue of Coercion
In the rhetoric of decentralization, consensus and
coercion have become concepts related to opposite
models of social and political organization. By
semantic association, the word consensus seems to
evoke principles such us equality, fairness,
agreement, brotherhood, cooperation, pacification.
On the contrary, both the words centralization and
coercion seem to be related to the idea of constrain,
oppression, violence, lack of freedom, infringement
of natural, individual rights. This perspective,
however, is quite objectionable. It does not take into
account, for instance, that centralization and
coercion are legal means originally designed to gain
stability, protection of individual rights and long-
term cohesion between groups. To see coercion
solely as an instrument of oppression is another
typical element of anarchic and Marxist doctrines:
according to this view, the individual autonomy is to
be considered a supreme value and there is no
difference between force of authority based upon
the law and mere violence.
At theoretical level, however, modern Western
constitutions have already solved the problem of
finding a balance between centralized, coercive
power and individual rights, through the concept of
rule of law: coercion based upon the law is thus
source of rights for citizens, and of not only duties,
and it constitutes the necessary common ground
between liberalism and democracy.
Examining the fundamental assumptions of
democratic theory, Robert Dahl (1989) explained
that anarchists considers the coercive authority as
an undesirable model, which should be replaced by
voluntary associations based on continuing consent.
Today, a strong anti-government feeling and
technological determinism lead many crypto-
anarchists and techno-libertarians to believe in the
blockchain as a disruptive technology capable to
gain such continuing consent, in order to create a
society with horizontal structures and distributed
Dahl, however, proposed many valid theoretical
points which contradict these assumptions. Firstly, if
we judge the performance of political systems as
good or bad according to the extent to which they
minimize coercion and maximize consent, then we
are dealing with moral doctrine and not with
political philosophy. However, most importantly,
since coercion is indeed a moral problem, it does not
disappear with the demise of the State, nor with a
horizontal distribution of authority. Coercion will
continue to exist even in the absence of the State,
simply because there will always be recalcitrant
wrongdoers in society; moreover, even if democratic
institutions were dismantled, some associates could
always gain enough resources to create an
oppressive State.
Since the continuous consent is in practice
impossible and coercion responds to an unavoidable
moral problem, all that remains is to decide how and
when the use of coercion is justifiable, according to
democratic rules.
Showing that the problem of coercion is all but
solved by the absence of the State, Dahl leads us
back again to the inescapable problem of setting a
higher level of political coordination, with legitimate
procedures to achieve organized coercion as
discussed earlier. But this does not have to be a
negative thing per se. As Dahl rightly pointed out,
avoiding coercion cannot be considered as a
supreme goal, which should prevail on other ends
like security, freedom, justice, or happiness: indeed,
it is not superior to such values at all.
We can thus conclude that in the democratic
theory, noncoercion, just like decentralization,
cannot be regarded as a political end in itself.
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
6.2 The Emerging of New Hierarchies: the
Blockchain Governance Oligarchy
A part from the issue of coercion, the blockchain-
based governance is not likely to solve the problem
of social hierarchical structures either.
Despite the open source nature of protocols
and the much-vaunted egalitarianism of peer-to-peer
networks, a massive adoption of blockchain services
with no public institutions to coordinate their action
would most probably end up creating new
oligarchies and a strong polarization in society. In
virtue of their technical skills, code developers,
miners, fintech professionals and technopreneurs
would easily have a privileged position in society,
becoming the new policy makers to detriment of a
big mass of computer illiterate or low skilled
individuals, reduced to mere passive recipients of
services. Elites can assume many forms according to
the social and political context, and we are in a
phase of human development where the power to
develop codes and select algorithms has and it will
increasingly have major implications in
contemporary society: this power entails “assertion
of authority” (Musiani, 2013) and it constitutes
“politics pursued by other means” (Latour 1988, p.
229; Musiani, 2013), calling into question the
egalitarian nature of technology and networks.
Regrettably, indeed, open source does not
automatically mean neither equal opportunity, nor
inclusiveness. Since such networks present major
cognitive entry barriers, the issue of accessibility
and digital divide is still the greatest obstacle to any
technology-based cosmopolitan governance (Marden,
According to many observers, a tendency to
elitism and centralization is already observable in
the current state of Bitcoin network, and similarly in
other decentralized platforms. In theory, the open
source protocol is designed to foster cooperation on
global scale and anyone can contribute to code
development through an online forum (
In practice, however, decisions are executed by a
small number of core developers and they constitute
a governance group with the exclusive power to
accept submissions (Gasser, Budish & West 2015).
Users remains free to opt in or opt out at will, with a
consensus ex-post policy that is only a shrunken
version of democratic governance, because of its
passive nature.
Gervais, Karame, Capkun and Capkun (2013)
have exposed the lack of transparent decision
making in Bitcoin and its centralized nature,
emphasizing the privileged position of core
developers in conflict resolution and the emergence
of many profitable businesses, mostly related to
mining operations. While the community generally
believes that no entity will ever acquire enough
computing power to control the network, miners
dominate the market and the fate itself of Bitcoin,
since their power far exceeds the one of individuals
(Gervais, Karame, Capkun & Capkun, 2013).
Also Curtois (2014) warned about the existing
imbalances in the Bitcoin ecosystem, both from a
technical and economic point of view. Bitcoin
stakeholders to name but one example generally
lack essential information about security issues,
because there is a strong asymmetry in information
between core developers, pool managers and users.
Further, Curtois confirmed that the design of the
entire Bitcoin architecture always gives mining pool
operators a greater strategical power in decision
making, compared to nodes. But most importantly,
Curtois stressed that open communities tend to
aggregate into clusters: sub-communities of Bitcoin
enthusiasts, well-established service providers and
other influential stakeholders interested in
promoting their brand name and their business
interests, for instance, tend to set up an
authoritative power, especially if there are major
economic interests at stake.
The most compelling evidence of this is
perhaps Bitcoin XT, a much criticized hard fork
launched in August 2015, for which the Bitcoin
Foundation took upon itself the power of decision
over global policy strategies (Hayase, 2015). Albeit
not formally vested with centralized decisional
powers, Bitcoin Foundation is endowed with a
formal structure and legal obligations, and
according to global governance researchers, this has
led to “an increased significance of voting” in the
decisional process (Gasser, Budish & West 2015, p.
If foundations or similar institutions may
achieve a significant and unaccountable soft power
in decentralized ecosystems, there is also a number
of prominent individuals in the Bitcoin and
blockchain industry, which have a strong influence
on the community and its discussions
(, 2015). This elite group may consist
of startup founders, key executives, chief scientists
and evangelists, who easily make headlines for their
leading role in technical debate. These celebrities
generally gain charismatic power through a strong
visibility in international conferences and media, by
virtue of their technical and rhetoric skills, or
because of their reputation as big private investors.
In this kind of global theathrocracy as Plato would
say grounded on online and stage presence, by
acting as industry thought leaders, they become
leaders de facto, promoting their ideas on how the
industry should move forward, and using financial
power, technical skills and persuasion namely
“influence over beliefs” (Dahl 1989, p. 274) – as
means of hegemony. This Steve Job-style charismatic
power can strategically use information to steer
network policy or shape users consensus at global
While the good faith of these public figures is
generally taken for granted, it is significant that they
may have previously had high-rank careers in IT or
financial giants, such as Google or JP Morgan. Is the
global financial techno-elite exploring new profitable
geographies of capital, joining the cause of
decentralization? In addition, if so, with what
political aim in view? Whatever the answer is, the
revolving door issue may raise legitimate concerns,
being potentially harmful to the public interest,
especially in case of massive adoption of the new
technologies at stake.
Considerations made so far may as well apply
for crowd-funded decentralized platforms like
Ethereum, a token-based service from which
depends the execution of smart contracts and other
applications. Ethereum is developed by a worldwide
team of contributors called ETHDEV, through GitHub
platform. The platform is run on behalf of the
Ethereum Foundation, a non-profit organization
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
registered in Switzerland, and its centralized
structure consists of a Board of Directors and an
Executive Chief. Albeit functional to the
development of the platform, Ethereum model of
governance is founded on ownership and vertically
structured power: this inevitably raises the issue of
legitimacy, integrity of the management team and
adequate transparency in the mechanisms for
reviewing development proposals, especially when
dealing with citizens' essential services. In a world
increasingly reliant on technology and ruled by
networks, whoever owns and controls these
platforms will always have a significant power over
civil society on a global scale.
Elitist theorists like Gaetano Mosca (1884;
1896) claimed that any socio-political regime is
always ruled by an organized minority. The
examples discussed so far confirm that even
cyberspace and open networks have an inherent
elitist nature, in which debate and decisions still
tend to be dominated by few. Indeed, networks
based on distributed consensus are far from having
a homogeneous and egalitarian structure: despite
the incorruptible nature of algorithms, individuals
are inclined to form clusters based on similar
interests and networks are thus likely to present
subtle or hidden points of control, other directly
managed by core developers or indirectly shaped by
diffused, charismatic powers.
All these elements confirm that the
revolutionary potential of governance- by- network
as an absolute, perfectly horizontal mode of political
and social organization is often overstated and
unrealistic as van Dick and Winters-van Beek
(2009) already pointed out. Networks are never
based exclusively on pure cooperation, on the
contrary they have their own centralized modes of
steering and governance, without which they easily
risk to fall apart (van Dick & Winters-van Beek,
Despite any utopian vision about a blockchain-
based, horizontal distribution of authority in society,
hierarchies, markets and networks constitute the
three main components of any society and they will
always exist, restlessly competing against each other
for power (Aron 1965; van Dick & Winters-van Beek,
2009). In the end, these very dynamics prevent both
utopias and dystopias to become real (van Dick &
Winters-van Beek, 2009).
But since a mix of centralization,
decentralization and competition for power appears
to be inevitable in society, resisting any disruptive
information technology, we are back again to the
problem of selecting leaders through legitimate
procedures, defining transparent and accountable
mechanisms to limit their power. An issue that the
governance of open blockchains leaves unresolved,
promising instead a utopian and universal socio-
political levelling.
The blockchain is a disruptive technology with a
tremendous transformative potential for our
societies. Risks and benefits related to its possible
applications, however, must be carefully weighted,
avoiding utopian expectations, as well as the pitfalls
of technocratic reasoning and determinism.
If properly managed, decentralization of
government services through permissioned
blockchains is possible and desirable, since it can
increase public administration functionality.
Decentralization of governance through open,
distributed blockchains like Bitcoin, however,
presents serious risks and drawbacks, which offset
the benefits.
Although originally designed as
disintermediation tools, the ecosystems of fully
distributed blockchains are characterized by a great
amount of third parties and profitable businesses
offering intermediation services, with strong
asymmetries of information and power between
developers and users. Trend towards centralization,
digital divide, lack of transparency in decision
making process, and unaccountable power of core
developers all these factors call into question the
egalitarian nature of current open networks, making
some blockchain advocates' expectations
overestimated and unrealistic. In particular, the idea
of a blockchain-based authority that “floats freely”
(Section II, point l) turns out to be deceptive, since
authority is in fact proven to morph into more
subtle or hidden centralized forms: while this kind
of governance is acceptable for business and private
services since inequalities and relativism are
typical of markets it is clearly unsuitable for e-
government, because of its very antidemocratic
There are hence reasons to question the role of
the blockchain-based governance as a great
facilitator of individual power, in an absolute sense.
On one hand, the promise of empowering
individuals is likely to remain unfulfilled, because of
the dominant role of markets and the speculative
verification systems of fully distributed blockchains.
On the other hand, the process of downplaying
public institutions, the primacy of economics over
politics, and the transformation of citizens into
costumers with the promise of more freedom,
efficiency, and equality may hide yet another
insidious process of corporatization of politics,
which invariably empowers markets to the detriment
of citizens. Far from being new, such shift of power
from public to private sector has been ongoing in
various forms for decades, with huge social and
economic costs.
Insofar as the State is not recognized as a
necessary collective body, it is weakened or mostly
dissolved in economy; a new elite of code developers
with unaccountable power reduces politics to
electronic service delivery; citizens are mere
consumers of services provided by private
platforms; collective rights “float freely”, treated like
any other commodity; and betting digital tokens on
public policies is extolled as “a quintessential
example of the potential transformative power of
blockchain technology” (see futarchy, Section II,
point h); then all the libertarian rhetoric against
political hierarchies and the narrative constructed
around blockchain decentralization risk to come
down to a hi-tech, anarcho-capitalist paradigm, the
nature of which is deeply anti-democratic.
A reasonable conclusion is that the blockchain-
based governance should be seen as an
organizational theory with significant technical
and managerial advantages for markets, private
services, communities, and e-government itself
Journal of Governance and Regulation / Volume 6, Issue 1, 2017
while it is not meant to be a stand-alone political
theory. Likewise, blockchain technology and
decentralized platforms are not hyper-political, but
rather pre-political tools. If not balanced out by the
functions of centralized, democratic institutions, the
blockchain-based governance risk falling within the
concept of amoral antipolitics, justified by the
rhetoric of inevitability of globalization, free-market
and individual power (Marden, 2003). And these
antipolitical forces are able to disrupt those very
democratic values that today many libertarians
strive to defend.
When assessing risks and benefits of
blockchain applications, we cannot overlook the fact
that to overthrow the State and to absorb its
functions is a profitable business. While the
blockchain was originally created to eliminate the
need of a third party in transactions, the paradox is
that stakeholders now involved in blockchain
governance play the classical role of tertius gaudens
(Simmel 1908; Portinaro, 1986), a “rejoicing third”
that attains economic benefits by replacing the State
in some or all its functions; even worse, these agents
may also intentionally pursue a strategy of divide et
impera (divide and rule) between civil society and
State, aimed to undermine the traditional democratic
order, modify the existing balance of power and
achieve a dominant position in society. If it is true
that “the neo-liberal ascendancy and its corporate
agenda are producing its own version of democracy”
(Marden 2003, p. xiv), it is not unreasonable to
assume that this will take on the features of an
algorithm-based decentralized society.
In such scenario, to advocate the idea of State
means to reaffirm the primacy of politics over
economics and to recognize the need for a
coordination point in society, in which the tensions
between individual interests and common good find
a constructive, political compromise. Needless to
say, this in no way means to defend the current
deplorable degeneration of public institutions into
mass surveillance systems, nor to justify the
reduction of politics to a “culture of security”, which
is increasingly transforming citizens into public
enemies. On the contrary, it means to revert to the
original spirit of our Constitutions and to their
genuine democratic principles, so often perceived as
an encumbrance by political practice.
It is the conscientious application of principles
and rights enshrined in law that can really empower
individuals rather than the privatization of
government services through token-based open
platforms. As Dahl (1989) rightly pointed out,
improving governance and seeking the best, State is
the only reasonable way to maximize individual
autonomy. There is no reason why blockchain
applications should not be functional to these goals,
and deployed within a democratic institutional
While the strong public dissent of techno-
libertarians and cypherpunks against institutions is
honorable, for it brings the problem of arbitrary use
of power into focus, now more than ever the State
and the constitutional provisions must be carefully
uncoupled from the long history of misuse of power
perpetrated by state rulers (Urbinati, 2003); in other
words, the theoretical principles of the State must
not be confused with bad governance, corrupted
politicians or defective politics.
The major challenge for global civil society will
soon be to explore new political and social
dimensions, with the aim of integrating the
applications of disruptive technologies such as the
blockchain with citizens' rights, equality, social
cohesion, inclusiveness, protection of public sector,
and our established democratic principles.
Such integration is vital and cannot be left to
the (anti-) political engineering of IT experts,
financial investors, and code developers: it requires
indeed a mature and interdisciplinary effort by all
the fields of human knowledge, with particular
regard to political theory, humanities and social
sciences, to best assess risks, benefits and outcomes
of the new technologies.
In the very next future, this integration might
be the only safeguard left against many possible
technological dystopias.
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... Even with the obviously inherent political nature of blockchain, most scholarly research has eluded to identify, analyze or address the broad socio-political implications that the different political approaches could have for society, political processes and governance (Atzori 2015(Atzori , 2018Golumbia 2016). Computer science has focused on technical experimentation concerning the infrastructure, incentive systems and features (Herbert and Litchfield 2015;Huckle et al. 2016;Zheng et al. 2017;Liang et al. 2017;Wang et al. 2017). ...
... Economists have evaluated and analyzed cryptocurrencies, Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), financial systems, and other economic contingencies (O'Dwyer 2015; Böhme et al. 2015;Catalini and Gans 2016;Scott 2016;Conley 2017). Omitting a few studies (Atzori 2015;De Filippi and Loveluck 2016;Campbell-Verduyn 2017;Herian 2018), any in-depth analyses of the political implications of blockchain are yet to published. Moreover, there is an absence of a rigorous framework to identify political ambitions of blockchain experiments, let alone the political imaginaries or societal visions that underpin them. ...
... To counteract these concentrations of power, projects can use a diversity of modes of decentralization, or checks and balances -each informed by their own political imagination. Mechanisms and software that decentralize complex systems can bring liberating possibilities; yet they also risk creating radically unaccountable and coercive concentrations of power (Atzori 2015;Reijers and Coeckelbergh 2016). In that, Table 7 Table 7) and at the implementation level (nature of • Who has the biggest incentive to participate in the system, and why? ...
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This study rests at the intersection of technopolitics, translocal networks and political change. The overall aim of the thesis is to understand, and in turn, influence, the way technology interacts with political transformation. It responds to the fact that social science has thus far neglected to adequately account for and analyze how emerging technologies like blockchain and civic tech influence the way politics is practiced. The main research question guiding the study is how does the design, implementation and use of technopolitical innovations influence the practice of politics. The thesis foregrounds the idea that technopolitical experiments personify a ‘prefigurative politics by design’ i.e. they embody the politics and power structures they want to enable in society. Conducted as part of the EU-funded SUSPLACE project that explores the transformative capacity of sustainable place-shaping practices, the research was predominantly inspired by a hybrid digital ethnography methodology. The thesis confines its focus to three empirical clusters: technopolitical blockchain projects, government-led blockchain projects and place-based civic engagement technologies. The study delineates how differing politico-social imaginaries play a role in the design and implementation of technopolitical projects; addresses contemporary post-political phenomena such as the depoliticization of agency; and identifies the activation of a place-based geography of political action through digitally-mediated municipal networks. It articulates the language and frameworks necessary to analyze these present-day challenges, while simultaneously developing approaches that can be exported to different domains of political activism. Technology is not neutral; but neither are its designers and users. The thesis finds that it is through considerable, deliberate efforts, in conjunction with individual and collective choices, that technopolitical innovations can reframe our socio-economic and political realities. The study demonstrates the emphatic and urgent need for researchers, practitioners, politicians and citizens to collaboratively work on redrawing boundaries of access, empowering the citizenry, creating new forms of organization and re-politicizing the economy. It outlines a transdisciplinary research and practice agenda that aims at not only (de)coding the existing technopolitical innovations, but also (re)coding them to create a more equitable system of politics. The thesis concludes that since coding affordances and constraints in a technopolitical system is shown to regulate political agency and even influence the behavior of citizens, we must devise value-driven technology that incentivizes creating a more equitable political system.
... This ensures the integrity of the blockchain (Narayanan et al., 2016). Third, a centralised system controlled by a single authority carries the risk of single-point failure (Atzori, 2017). By doing away with a centralised or root authority and by distributing copies of the blockchain across many peers on a peer-to-peer network, a permissionless blockchain uses redundancy to mitigate this type of risk. ...
... In the literature reviewed, the purpose of the peer-to-peer network was named in relation to the storage of copies of the blockchain (Boudguiga et al., 2017;Labazova, 2019), the verification of transactions, the recording of transactions, and the verification of the validity of the blockchain (Atzori, 2017;Nawari & Ravindran, 2019). We add to these functions the provision of disintermediated communication (data exchange) between stakeholders and components. ...
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The term decentralised as a description of the architecture, operation, and governance of permissionless blockchain systems has become ubiquitous. However, in these contexts, the term decentralised has no clear definition. Blockchain ecosystems are complex, and thus it is essential to address confusion among stakeholders about their nature and promote understanding of the intentions and consequences of their implementation. This article offers a theoretical definition of the term decentralised in the context of permissionless blockchain systems. It is proposed that five inextricable and interconnected aspects are required, at a minimum, to warrant a claim that a permissionless blockchain system is decentralised. These aspects are disintermediation, a peer-to-peer network, a distributed blockchain data structure, algorithmic trust, and open-source principles. The relationship between the five aspects is discussed, and it is argued that decentralisation is not binary but exists on a spectrum. Any variation in one or more aspects may impact the system’s decentralised nature as a whole. The researchers identify areas where further investigation in this field is required and propose instances where the knowledge garnered may be used.
... This project also adheres to an open-source framework in which the communities of electroacoustic and computer music co-develop the collaboration model, the technical infrastructure, the artistic practice, and finally the dissemination of its artifacts. The models and technologies presented in this paper are meant to be revised, altered, and further developed while acting as a pivot for the investigation of It is equally important to acknowledge that Blockchain technology is ethically and politically prone to controversy [32], and we feel the need to include a community-wide discussion of its implications in our framework. While most of the blockchain projects endorse a neo-libertarian ideology [33], we think of the technology as a tool with the potential of achieving pertinent governance of the commons. ...
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In the last decade, blockchain has been established as a transformative technology that is beginning to impact the key sectors of finance, health, energy, administration, and agriculture, among many others. In relation to arts, much of the current research focuses on the problems of the protection, dissemination, and monetization of art and music, which is created by conventional means. In this paper, we take a more experimental approach and propose a blockchain system for collaborative electroacoustic music composition that achieves consensus by measuring a contribution value. The main advantage of such an approach is having secure documentation that promotes trust and guarantees the integrity of the whole process while supporting a collaborative ecosystem for the creation of new music. We introduce a Proof of Creative Contribution (PoCC) consensus protocol, which measures a contribution value and assigns the composer with the highest value to record the composition data on the blockchain. In addition, we document a simulated compositional process that demonstrates the diversification of the block creator whose contributions have been well received by the network. The system supports a compositional process that is based on modular units, enabling multiple electroacoustic music pieces to be composed simultaneously, asynchronously, and non-linearly.
Purpose The analytical hierarchical process (AHP)’s main purpose is to assess higher hierarchy levels based on the cooperation of its various levels. It results in a well-designed model-based method in which the weights for the selected attribute are calculated using dimensions, criteria, and indicators. This paper aims to highlight the benefits of blockchain in supply chain management with the help of a literature review along with opinions of experts from various sectors. Design/methodology/approach With the goal of enhancing the use of blockchain technology in supply chain management, particularly when comparing within the same industry, the AHP methodology has been used. In order to develop the AHP model, a total of eight elements are examined in this study, which are decentralization, resiliency, security, smart contracts, sustainability, traceability, transparency and trust. A calculation of a Desirability Index for conventional supply chain and blockchain-enabled supply chains has been also developed. Findings Findings where that in a blockchain-enabled supply chain, the global weights of individual benefit variables are considerably larger than in conventional supply chains. When the score of the Desirability Index for conventional supply chain and blockchain-enabled supply chain is compared, the blockchain-enabled supply chain significantly surpasses the conventional supply chain in terms of increasing sustainable development in today’s supply networks. Originality/value This study takes into account the AHP methodology applying it on blockchain. This has not been done before in the academic world, at least as far as the authors may be aware of. The originality of combining such process with a recent technology such as blockchain highlights the value of this research.
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Blokčejn je jedna od najbrže rastućih grana IT industrije u Srbiji, koja bi do kraja godine trebala da dobije novi Zakon o digitalnoj imovini, što će omogućiti regulatorni okvir za implementaci-ju blokčejn tehnologije. Ova tehnologija je bazira-na na decentralizovanoj distributivnoj mreži i kao takva predstavlja "knjigu"u kojoj se zapisuju sve transakcije. Ona postavlja temelje za jednu potpu-no novu pradigmu baziranu na decentralizaciji i minimiziranju transakcionih troškova, te zaštiti po-verljivih podataka, pojednostavljivanju procesa i povećanju sigurnosti. Cilj ovog rada je da predstavi upotrebu blokčejn tehnologije u modelu decentrali-zovane mrežne uprave. U ovom modelu subjekti su raspoređeni u mrežnu strukturu, dok su u drugim modelima raspoređeni u hijerarhiju ili horizontalnu strukturu. Za razliku od modela u kome se zadaci distribuiraju u zavisnosti od identiteta subjekta ili u zavisnosti od uloge koju subjekat može da zauzme u upravljačkom procesu, distribucija upravljačkih zadataka se u modelu decentralizovane mrežne uprave vrši prema kapacitetu i uticaju na fluidnoj bazi. Najvažniji aspekt ovih modela su odnosi moći među subjektima. U modelu mrežne uprave distri-bucija moći postaje varijabilna i dinamično zavisna od odnosa subjekata u mrežnoj strukturi. Ovakav pristup postaje nužnost u decentralizovanim privre-dama koje se sve više digitalizuju, odnosno uvode nove tehnologije među kojima je i blokčejn.
The pandemic crisis caused by COVID-19 is having a significant impact on our daily work and lives. 5G networks are ready to roll out across the world. This 5G technology helps by interconnecting devices with high quality-of-services (QoS) and efficient system capacity expansion. Aside from this, 5G offers other benefits regarding privacy, decentralization, visibility, and data interoperability. Blockchain technology is used in various industries, including electronic banking, health, and consensus mechanism. Blockchain is a new field based on the idea of a digitally distributed network and smart contract that eliminate all intermediary risks. Extending blockchain technology to the Internet of things (IoT) can provide further benefits. Because millions of IoT devices are connected, and more personal data are shared, one of the most critical challenges with 5G technology is authentication. While using blockchain technology, this data should be more secure. Electronic health records (EHRs) have become a common way to store and manage patient data in hospitals. Sharing these records improves the accuracy and efficiency of the current healthcare database management system. This study was conducted by gathering data and implementing applications regularly. In a blockchain, encryption algorithms know to obtain high-quality confidentiality of individual and organizational data. Healthcare knowledge and analysis are indeed essential to all parties, and privacy should still be retained and developed as technology advances. This proposed method provides a distributed ledger in 5G networks to encrypt information in intelligent healthcare systems.
Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) are blockchain-based organizations fed by a peer-to-peer (P2P) network of contributors. Their management is decentralized without top executive teams and built on automated rules encoded in smart contracts, and their governance works autonomously based on a combination of on-chain and off-chain mechanisms that support community decision-making. A growing body of literature has emerged exploring DAOs. However, there is a considerable lack of clarity about this organizational design and its theoretical conceptualization. To this end, we undertake an integrative literature review that reveals three main principles—decentralized, automated and autonomous organizations—and the following four theoretical perspectives mainly adopted to examine this novel organizational form: transaction cost theory, institutions for collective action, agency theory, and socio-materiality. By extending these theories, we propose an integrative model of DAO for research and theory building. Our contribution provides conceptual clarity and proposes a framework for future research directions.
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In this chapter we provide an overview of the concept of blockchain technology and its potential to disrupt the world of banking through facilitating global money remittance, smart contracts, automated banking ledgers and digital assets. In this regard, we first provide a brief overview of the core aspects of this technology, as well as the second-generation contract-based developments. From there we discuss key issues that must be considered in developing such ledger based technologies in a banking context.
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p>Algorithms are increasingly often cited as one of the fundamental shaping devices of our daily, immersed-in-information existence. Their importance is acknowledged, their performance scrutinised in numerous contexts. Yet, a lot of what constitutes 'algorithms' beyond their broad definition as “encoded procedures for transforming input data into a desired output, based on specified calculations” (Gillespie, 2013) is often taken for granted. This article seeks to contribute to the discussion about 'what algorithms do' and in which ways they are artefacts of governance, providing two examples drawing from the internet and ICT realm: search engine queries and e-commerce websites’ recommendations to customers. The question of the relationship between algorithms and rules is likely to occupy an increasingly central role in the study and the practice of internet governance, in terms of both institutions’ regulation of algorithms, and algorithms’ regulation of our society.</p
The purpose of this chapter is to outline the development of the idea of "stakeholder management" as it has come to be applied in strategic management. We begin by developing a brief history of the concept. We then suggest that traditionally the stakeholder approach to strategic management has several related characteristics that serve as distinguishing features. We review recent work on stakeholder theory and suggest how stakeholder management has affected the practice of management. We end by suggesting further research questions.
This paper synthesizes a set of twelve case studies of real-world governance structures. Together with the underlying case studies, it is the result of a globally coordinated, independent academic research pilot project by the Global Network of Interdisciplinary Internet & Society Research Centers (NoC). Facilitated by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, this study examines existing multistakeholder governance groups with the goal of informing the evolution of — and current debate around — the future evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem in light of the NETmundial Principles and Roadmap, discussions at the Internet Governance Forum, and the NETmundial Initiative, as well as other forums, panels, and committees.Internet governance is an increasingly complex concept that operates at multiple levels and in different dimensions, making it necessary to have a better understanding of both how multistakeholder governance groups operate and how they best achieve their goals. With this need in mind, at a point where the future of Internet governance is being re-envisioned, this project aims to deepen our understanding of the formation, operation, and critical success factors of governance groups (and even challenge conventional thinking) by studying a geographically diverse set of local, national, and international governance models, components, and mechanisms from within and outside of the sphere of Internet governance, with a focus on lessons learned.The research effort is grounded in a diversity of global perspectives and collaborative research techniques. Adhering to objective and independent academic standards, it aspires to be useful, actionable, and timely for policymakers and stakeholders. More broadly, the Network of Centers seeks to contribute to a more generalized vision and longer-term strategy for academia regarding its roles in research, facilitation and convening, and education in and communication about the Internet age.
We live in antipolitical times. Many symptoms point in this direction: the reemergence of right-wing populism in western Europe, the antistate rhetoric of the new Republican Right in the United States, the recurrent success of antipolitical establishment candidates in Latin America, the ethnic recoding of politics in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the widespread evidence of popular disenchantment with politics in old as well as new democracies, the tangible presence of antipolitical motives in media discourse, and the emigration of sovereignty out of politics and into societal systems of global scale. This multitude of dispersed indicators naturally falls together into a colourful mosaic of generalized antipolitics. ‘We live in antipolitical times’. Indeed this phrase is marvellous — the ideal opening of any book on antipolitics. It formulates a bold hypothesis, proclaims a new era, irradiates the air of grand theory and suggests an extraordinary capacity on the part of the author to capture the signs of our time. Let us therefore read it cautiously, with reservation. Or better, let us reformulate it.